Updated: 2 days ago
Going an entire football career without being shown a red card is no mean feat, but some of the sport's all-time greats have managed it during years or even decades at the top.
Name a famous footballer, either already retired or nearing the end of their career. Chances are they'll have been shown a red card at least once.
Ryan Giggs made it through more than 20 Premier League seasons without being dismissed, but failed to do the same in Wales colours. Even Lionel Messi, known more for enticing others into red card challenges, saw red for Argentina as a teenager and for Barcelona as an elder statesman.
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There are a few players who have done the unthinkable, though, escaping the severest punishment from referees for the duration of their career. Here, Mirror Football picks out seven of the best, including three not-yet-retired players who still have time to blot their copybooks.
1. Karim Benzema
Didn't expect to see Benzema here, did you? Sure, he might not be the shrinking violet you'd expect on a list of 'good boys', but his disciplinary record is second to... well, a few, but not many.
The French striker has been carded just 16 times over the course of his illustrious career. 15 of those came at club level, in the colours of Lyon and Real Madrid, while one arrived in the blue of France.
The best thing about that France booking? It came during an 8-0 victory over Kazakhstan, with his team already three goals to the good.
2. Andres Iniesta
Iniesta is no stranger to the referees notebook, picking up 67 bookings in his club career and five in his 131 Spain caps. However, in more than 900 games as a senior pro, he hasn't seen red even once.
Considering his position on the field, the stat feels even more remarkable. It's one thing avoiding punishment when you're regularly the one getting on the end of moves, but an ability to do so while playing in the middle of the park points to some impressive timing and self-control.
To put it into a bit more context, let's look at Gavi, a young man who has been compared to his compatriot. Where Iniesta avoided a red card in 674 Barca games, Gavi's first came within his first 30 matches for the club.
3. Philipp Lahm
Regarded by many as a gentleman on the pitch, Lahm was the kind of player you'd want on your side. And not just because you could invariably trust him to still be on the field of play come full-time.
The 38-year-old kept things simple in his playing days. A one-club man, save for a loan at Stuttgart early in his career, and a steady presence for Germany across more than 100 caps.
One goal every 30 games for Bayern Munich. One card (always yellow) every 13. The rest of the time, he was just doing his job well with no need for anything else.
4. Gary Lineker
Lineker's name is one you're probably less surprised to see here. The former England and Barcelona striker was known for being one of football's nice guys, and that's down to his disciplinary record as much as anything else.
Not only was Lineker never sent off, but he was never even shown a yellow card. That goes for club and country, by the way - across more than 500 games in total.
You might think a lack of cards might be down to a lack of involvement, but you can hardly accuse Lineker of such a thing considering his goalscoring record. It's just that you don't get carded if you're always in the right place.
5. Joao Moutinho
The third active player on the list, Moutinho's record is - like Iniesta's - impressive given his position. And arguably even more so when you consider his current role as a relatively deep-lying player in a Premier League team.
After turning 35 earlier this season, there's every chance the veteran crosses the 1,000 game threshold next season. And none of the 950+ for club and country so far have brought a dismissal.
Sporting CP. Porto. Monaco. Wolves. Portugal. Not a single red card. More than 100 yellows, though, and it's hard to tell if the lack of a red is more or less impressive with that context.
Raul might be the closest the game had to Lineker after the Englishman's retirement. An elite striker, who scored at the highest level, but someone who rarely found himself in trouble with the officials.
His 50 yellows might be a fair bit higher than Lineker's, but (a) he played more than 400 extra games, (b) it's still only one every 20 games or so and (c) that includes a single booking in 103 Spain caps.
Similarly to Benzema above, the yellow at international level wasn't in the most significant circumstances. Indeed, it was in a friendly - against France, in 2001, for those keeping score.
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